How to revive the Indian agriculture?
These current economic scenarios is far from any certainty and predictability. There are many challenges, from the external challenges and the internal turmoil. Of course, the economic and political issues, in the best of times or worst of situations are always very complex and complicated. That is why in an ironical sense both the politicians and the professional economists are always over-rated!
Now, coming to the current times we see that India as the world’s largest democracy as well as the fifth largest economy, also with the latest Chinese incursions and the prevailing Covid-19 Corona Virus Pandemic, is facing multiple challenges. Of course those who are in positions of authority, in politics and other responsible policy making spheres have special moral responsibility to play their roles with greater commitment. Now, we at Vadamalai Media and committed as we are to the nationally crucial agriculture sector, we have to write and comment with greater responsibility.
We are not in any position of political responsibility, though we feel that even otherwise, agriculture is a type of sphere where there are too many voices, both official as well as political that agriculture is one arts where everyone seems to be cut off from actual practical farming as their daily livelihood. That its one very important reason, among others, to see that Indian agricultural policy making is so skewed. That the actual farmers, cultivator is always in an exploitative situation. Now, the current scene. As one senior agri scientist who participated in Vadamalai Media’s new online venture, www.agricultureinformation.com video conferencing “Discussion Group”‘s daily event, that after the current threatening Covid 19 Pandemic, it is the agriculture sector, the farming activity is as active as the Covid Virus sector. Challenge!
Now, it is for the first time in India we, Indians themselves have realised that Indian agriculture at the all India level is very much dependent on migrant labour. On such a vast scale who and which expert, agri or non-agri who has said so far? As far as we know none! Such is the dependence of Indian agriculture that once the Corona Virus hot and when many states announced lockdowns a storm, almost like flood havoc drove out such vast numbers, the rural migrants who flooded the fields of Punjab, Haryana and West UP, not to speak of other States, many in the Southern India, also saw this vast humanity flooding out to their rural hinterlands seeking an escape from this Pandemic.
As per latest statistics, lndia’s salaried population is only a small fraction of this total work force which explains why so many migrants had to move out of cities when the lockdown was announced on March 24. The International Labour Organisation (lLO) estimates that only 22% of India’s work force falls under the category of salaried employment and 78% of people had no assured salary and was bound to suffer in such uncertain periods.
In fact, we would say that it is an opportunity now that for people at large and also for cultivating public opinion on such critical issues like agriculture, the sector for which we are committed to realise that how important agriculture sector is for such national priorities like surplus food production and also still more seriously how agriculture with its bounty of providing a food surplus that is also very critical to survive in this increasingly uncertain world. We Indian people must also know that in the rest of the world, in the Middle East and also in some parts of Africa people pay a heavy price, as in Syria, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, there is a food crisis right now and wars and political instabilities cause an immense misery and much heartburn for people with less fortunate leaders. The important point we want to further convey is that in India too we need to pay greater attention beyond agriculture, food production, we have to equally commit ourselves, the importance of politics, good governance and also the public opinion and public perception of the quality of our leaders, politicians and the political class, the political elite whose compositions, with corruption and undemocratic composition of our political party cadres and the sort of mentality developed by our leaders to run their party machines with such huge political denotations (the latest estimate is that the ruling party collected Rs 4057.40 crores and spent Rs. 1,371.82 crores, as per the research of the Association for Democratic Reforms). We have much more to say for the nature of our highly unequal and inequitable political structures in the name of democracy. All these, not just the poverty and exploitation of the poor. So the point here is that India is much better in agriculture development issues but there are very many structural issues. You can’t separate politics from economics and so vice versa. Now, the latest announcement of the Prime Minister for free food and also direct payment into the hands of the poor to cut short the bureaucratic constraint is welcome. Let us hope the free food scheme works satisfactorily. As for the revival of agricultural economy, one important point here is that, as well know that the marginal farmers is in the majority. The average farm holding is less than two hectares per household.
To make farming profitable, we have written extensively. So, there is no point here in writing anything more. The ground level reality is that the returned migrant labour would now get back to the old haunts where they had learnt to. Earn three of four times the daily wage is. So, please don’t disturb this existing rural realities. Innovate new production techniques and let new innovations like producers farming societies and other contract farming practices come into a new life. Let the co-operative efforts plus other new initiates succeed.
There are other land reform laws still there and inhibit freedoms of farmers. In Karnataka they are making changes. We need farmers freedoms ensured. Don’t tie the land owners to some outdated land reform laws further.
Bank loans to actual farmers must be liberally provided, so too the marketing reforms.
There may be some disruptions. Disruptions are better for some time than present day anti-liberal mind set of populist politics!